Let’s call conference a Category associated with a Group.
A conference has a home page, presenting the conference purpose and possibly inviting users to join, according to the group’s credentials, as in the group’s page. Technically, this home page could be the group’s home page, without the members list.
The conference scheme enables large communities to maintain opt-in work groups or special interest sections, or different language sections without overwhelming all users with notifications and a large number of topics.
This can be implemented as a plugin which I’m interested in programming. I’m proposing this to the community to see if there is traction, and if other people would like to participate. I suppose most of the functionality is already present, and it’s a matter of fixing the pipes to adapt the UI. This “category opt-in” scheme mostly moves the focus from topics to categories.
This scheme has been used in other online forums, e.g., Howard Rheingold’s Brainstorms, where hundreds of users exchange daily, rendering the contents quite overwhelming when you try to follow everything – hint: you can’t. As thousands of posts accumulate in your reading list, you’re very happy to be able to focus on some parts of the community rather than playing catch-up or muting the avalanche of new categories and topics.